The Winter Solstice also is known as midwinter is an astronomical phenomenon which occurs every year. This year the winter solstice occurred on December 21, 2017. Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and has the longest night of the year in the Northern hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the longest night happens during December solstice whereas in Southern Hemisphere it occurs on June solstice. Here are a few things that one must know about the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Also Read - United Kingdom: Archaeologists Discover Neolithic Monument Near Stonehenge
The Winter solstice marks the slow and steady march towards spring as the sun starts being up for a few more seconds each day starting from this day. The reason we have a solstice and different seasons are because the Earth is tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees. Pagan religions used to celebrate the day. The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol sister which means “sun standing still”. Supermoon Trilogy: The Next Supermoons Will Occur on 1st and 31st January 2018 Also Read - International Yoga Day 2020: History And Significance And The Theme Chosen For This Year
1.What happens on Winter Solstice?
The December winter solstice marks the southernmost point on Earth where sun’s direct rays fall on the Earth’s surface, south of the equator, along with the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south latitude. The time and date of the solstice change slightly each year but it falls on either December 21 or December 22. The reason we have a solstice and seasons is that of the Earth’s tilt n its axis. The Earth is slightly tilted at 23.5 degrees which cause each hemisphere to get different amounts of sunlight throughout the year as our planet orbit around the sun. Winter solstice sees the sun takes the shortest and the lowest path in the Northern Hemisphere and the shadow is the longest of the year at noon. On December solstice the sun’s everyday southward movement seems paused and we see the sun rise and set at its southernmost point before reversing direction northwards. This yearly astronomical turning point has been celebrated in Pagan religions since centuries. Stonehenge and the Mayan civilization celebrated the winter solstice. Also Read - Summer Solstice 2020: How Some Countries Celebrate The Longest Day of The Year
2.Hours of Daylight
The amount of daylight received by a place depends on its distance from the equator. So India might receive more daylight than Norway or even Alaska in the United States of America. In countries which is closer to the Arctic Circle, the sun barely climbs up the horizon for three to four hours. At 66.5 degrees north latitude, North of the Arctic Circle the sun never rises and darkness prevails as the Earth rotates on its axis.
3.Is the winter solstice the earliest sunset of the year?
No, not usually. Just because December 21 is the shortest day of the year it does not mean that every location has its earliest sunset or sunrise on that day.
4.Is winter solstice the coldest day of the year?
Not usually, although the sunlight received is the minimum but the coldest day usually occurs in January or February depending on where you live. This happens because the Earth’s ocean absorbs sun’s energy and releases it slowly over time. So there is a gap between when there is the least sunlight and when the air temperatures are the coldest. The same thing occurs in summer, there is a delay when the maximum sunlight is received by Earth usually on June 22 called summer solstice but the hottest day occurs in July or August.
5.Where does the Stonehenge come in this?
Stonehenge was built some 5,000 years ago but people don’t know what the exact reason is. However, one common belief is that the Stonehenge depicts the solstices and equinoxes because the structure is directly aligned toward the sunset during the winter solstice and works like a sundial. Pagan religions and early civilizations like the Mayans celebrated winter solstice as it marked the winter and other harvesting and slaughtering of animals for the oncoming winter days.
6.Does winter solstice have the longest night in Earth’s entire history?
Not necessarily. Since the Earth has liquid oceans and a moon its rotation has been slowing down over time due to tidal friction which means that over very, very long periods of time the days have been steadily getting bigger. The melting of glacial icecaps and global warming has also hastened this process so although the winter solstice does have a long night it is not the longest in Earth’s history.
Hopefully with this article we might have been able to assuage some of your valid queries about winter solstice and Earth’s rotation. Our planet is truly a magnificent and remarkable celestial body which has immense mysteries associated with it. Let’s ensure that we don’t destroy it with our thoughtless ways.